No. 21 Forage for wild food

A girl picks a couple of pears from a tree in front of a brick wall at Hughenden

Foraging is a hobby that involves searching for and eating plants, herbs and fruit. People have been foraging since the dawn of time and it’s time for you to dip your hand into the hedgerows, trees and bushes to see what yummy treats you can discover. Delicious snacks await you with adventure no. 21 on our list of ‘50 things to do before you're 11¾’.

You can find wild food almost anywhere in nature. When you’re out in the countryside, keep your eyes peeled for snacks in the trees, in the hedgerows and also on the ground. What can you see? Bushes might be full of blackberries. Are there any fruit trees with apples, plums or pears waiting to be picked? Maybe there’s sweet-smelling wild garlic underfoot? See what you can find.

You may also spot other hungry mouths looking for treats. Are the birds feasting on berries in the bushes? Maybe insects are enjoying a meal of fallen apples. See what other creatures you spot nibbling while you forage. And be sure to share your spoils with them.

What time of year is it?

You can forage for wild food at any time of the year; you just need to be aware that some seasons will have less on offer, while others are abundant (such as autumn). And, you know, wild plants include weeds - many of which are deliciously edible.

In May and June, there will mainly be herbs and plants on offer. Did you know you can eat the leaves of a lime tree? Clover is also yummy (but leave plenty for the bees, they love it). Dandelion, sweet violet and wild garlic can be found in abundance too.

July, August and September bring tasty treats such as blueberries, garlic mustard, blackberries, apples, raspberries and of course, the all-round favourite: strawberries.

Come October, November and December, tasty nuts abound. Why not munch on beech nuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts (these need to be cooked first) and walnuts.

Cooking your collection

Many things that you forage for can be eaten straight from the tree or bush. Some taste even better when they’re thrown into a salad or steeped to make a fruity tea, or perhaps added to a recipe and baked in the oven.

Be aware

  • Only eat what you recognise. If you don’t know what it is, don’t eat it.
  • Toadstools are definitely poisonous, but so are some mushrooms. It’s best to steer clear of both unless you’re with an adult who can safely identify what's edible.
  • Watch out for prickles and brambles when you’re scouring the hedgerows.
  • Bees and wasps also love the sweet fruit and berries that can be found in the wild. Be mindful that you don’t disturb or scare them - you could also be stung.
  • Eat sustainably. That means, just taking some of what you find and leaving enough for animals, insects and for the plant to seed. It also means only collecting what is plentiful.